Bulgur, a grain product made from parboiled cracked wheat, has a nutty flavor and a chewy texture, and is commonly used in Middle Eastern salads and pilafs. The spices that work well with bulgur are characteristic of many Middle Eastern dishes, making it easy to pair bulgur dishes with other regional specialties. You can add spices to the water you use to cook bulgur, as well as season the grain once it has been fully cooked.
Parsley and Mint
Parsley is often used to season bulgur. In fact, the classic Middle Eastern salad tabouli can contain more parsley than bulgur. Curly parsley is more commonly used with bulgur than the flat leaf variety, adding texture that complements the mouth feel of the grain, especially in dishes where it is added raw. For cooked bulgur dishes, use either curly or flat leaf parsley. Dried or fresh spearmint is also often used to season bulgur. It should be used in moderation to add a subtle brightness.
Dukkah is an Egyptian spice mixture that usually contains nuts such as hazelnuts, pistachios and almonds, and seeds such as sesame and sunflower seeds. Dukkah also includes the spices coriander and cumin, as well as optional additions such as marjoram, thyme and fennel. The precise combination of ingredients depends on both personal taste and regional convention. The nuts and seeds in dukkah amplify the nuttiness of bulgur, whether the spice mixture is added while the bulgur is cooking or after it has fully softened.
Zaatar is a spice combination used throughout the Middle East, although it varies across countries and even among families, which closely guard their secret recipes. The most commonly used ingredients are sesame seeds, thyme, oregano and sumac, and other common additions include cumin, mint, marjoram, sage and orange zest. Zaatar is most often used as a table condiment rather than a cooking seasoning, and should be sprinkled on bulgur dishes as they are served, or passed around for individual diners to season their own.
Bulgur combines well with other flavorings that aren't necessarily spices, but they do both the grain and the spices you typically use with it. Good olive oil has a rich and savory flavor, and there are many high quality Middle Eastern olive oils, especially those from Lebanon and Palestine. Lemon is also a classic flavoring used with bulgur, especially in tabouli, and it blends well with olive oil, parsley, lemon and zaatar.
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